Insight and inspiration

Books - sGreat stories from great charities…

It would be easy to think we’re going through particularly challenging times. From the current crises of pandemics and panic buying, to the chronic challenges of climate, poverty and inequality.

While most people’s quality of life is still immeasurably better than it’s been at any previous time in history, for those of us committed to making the world a better, safer, more sustainable and more humane place to live, it can sometimes feel like very slow going – that the mountains we’re climbing are getting ever steeper. And it feels like that for two reasons.

The first is changing expectations. As a sector, we’ve evolved and matured enormously. We’ve raised our standards, our targets, our aspirations, and rightly so. Many of the problems we were wrestling with decades ago have largely been solved, and the ones that remain, do so because they’re far more complex and inter-twined than they ever appeared back then.

Many of our models have had to change as a result: from institutionalised care to enabling independence, from providing relief to investing in resilience, from individual interventions to wider systems change. The metaphor extending from: “give a man a fish” to: “offer a community of women a blend of micro-loans and business support, enabling them to develop a thriving marine-based economy of their own”. These represent tectonic shifts in insight and aspiration.

The second reason is what’s called availability bias, defined as: “the human tendency to think that examples of things that come readily to mind are more representative than is actually the case”. Availability bias is the phenomenon that translates several years of headlines about benefit scroungers, into a public belief that benefit fraud is 34 times more prevalent than is the case.

Every day, charities and social enterprises are doing incredible things, endlessly innovating and making a transformational difference to people’s lives. It just doesn’t make it into the media. Good news does not make for good headlines. But perhaps it does make for a good book.

A wise friend once told me: “If we never blew our own trumpets, there wouldn’t be any music”. So here I am, blowing mine, and the various trumpets of the many people across the sector who shared with me their stories and successes – a veritable fanfare of brass – that allowed me to write the book that comes out in just three weeks’ time.

It is full of examples of charities and social enterprises from around the world, doing things that are innovative and inspiring, applying new ideas and new models to create impact and generate income that will fund more innovations and even greater impact.

Having read it, Richard Hawkes, CEO of British Asian Trust, claims in his foreword for the book that he has already ordered copies for everyone in his organisation. What he didn’t say, was that the book is half the price of a ticket for Molineux, and far, far more enjoyable – even as a die-hard Wolves fan, I suspect, deep down, Hawkes knows that’s true.

Plus, I’ve just been given permission by the publishers to offer readers of this email a 20% discount with the code FMK20 from the Kogan Page website.

So, all things considered, and with the risk of coronavirus right now, why would you pay to stand in the rain, in a vast crowd of possibly highly infectious strangers, when instead you could order a copy of The Commercial Charity to read in comfy early-April self-isolation, and still have enough change to stockpile some toilet rolls and pasta?

It’s just a thought.

Some dates for your diary:

  1. The Commercial Charity will be published by Kogan Page on 3rd April and is available to pre-order now with 20% off, using the code FMK20. It can also be pre-ordered from all the usual booksellers.
  2. I will be speaking at the NCVO annual conference on 28th April in Workshop A3, on “Thinking differently about income generation” – tickets are still available. If you’re there, come and say hello.
  3. The next Charity CEO Breakfast seminar is on 28th April in London, when we will be talking about collaboration and consolidation, from strategic partnerships to M&A. This is free but strictly for CEOs only – just two seats remain, contact me if you’d like to join us.
  4. On 5th May I will be co-hosting “an evening forum of charity and commerce” with Carol Homden CBE, CEO of Coram, in Bloomsbury, with a panel of excellent guests from across the sector; places are still available but running out fast – contact me to reserve a seat.
  5. And on 20th May I’m running a free morning seminar, open to anyone in a senior role within a non-profit organisation, on developing and improving commercial performance, with special guests from various major charities – email me if you’d like to register to attend.

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